Derek Penslar

  • Theodor Herzl: statesman without a state
  • A biography
  • Lecture

How did the cosmopolitan and assimilated European Jew become the most important leader of the Zionist movement?
Theodor Herzl (1860-1904) has become world famous as the founder of political Zionism. Yet his short life raises many questions: How could he be both artist and statesman, rationalist and aesthete, strict moralist and yet driven by deep, sometimes dark, passions? And why was he revered as a leader by so many Jews, including traditional Jews?

Drawing on an extensive corpus of Herzl’s private, literary, and political writings, Derek Penslar shows that Herzl’s path to Zionism was not only driven by rampant anti-Semitism but also explained by personal crises. Once committed to Zionism, Herzl distinguished himself as a consummate leader – full of tireless energy, organizational skill, and infectious charisma. He became a projection screen for many Jews of his time, for their needs and aspirations.

Derek Penslar is William Lee Frost Professor of Jewish History at Harvard University.

Introduction and discussion: Prof. Dr. Johannes Becke, Heidelberg University of Jewish Studies.

Languages: English/German

In the series Israel

Foto: DAI Heidelberg / Filip Fehrmann

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